Most doctors agree that adults who are obese have a higher risk for heart disease. Now researchers are finding that this same risk holds true for children. And because obesity among children has been rising steadily, there is great cause for concern.
A Growing Problem
Not too long ago, children got plenty of physical activity and ate a fairly healthy diet. Today, more and more children spend hours in front of a TV or computer screen, and they often consume too many high-calorie, high-fat foods. These habits can add up to weight trouble.
Would you know if your child is too heavy? Many parents don’t recognize weight issues in their children, so it’s best to ask your pediatrician. “Doctors typically use body mass index, or BMI, to determine if a child is overweight. It’s a calculation of weight in relation to height,” explains Henry Marcus, D.O., a pediatrician at Botsford Hospital. “A child may be obese if his or her BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for his or her age.
”According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States tripled between 1980 and 2000. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a higher BMI during childhood is associated with an increased risk for heart disease in adulthood.
For example, boys who were 25 pounds overweight at age 13 had a 33 percent higher risk for heart disease in adulthood than their peers at a normal weight.
What Can Be done?
“The good news about childhood obesity is that we know what causes it and how to help prevent or reverse it,” notes Dr. Marcus. “Parents and other caregivers can help their children maintain a healthy weight to avoid future heart disease.